Friday, October 31, 2008

Daily Cal: Ross Making Strides as Wideout and Kick Returner

By Jack Ross


Every week, it seems, a different Cal receiver rises to the occasion. Last week's game against UCLA was no exception as sophomore Jeremy Ross pieced together a tidy three-catch, 47-yard game that included a crucial 29-yard reception. "I'm feeling real comfortable out there," Ross said. "The more I get in, the more I get adjusted. It's been a good run. I feel relaxed, and I'm starting to make big plays." Perhaps one of the leading reasons for Ross's recent emergence has been his increased role on special teams. For the past two weeks, he's been one of Cal's starting kickoff return men. Last Saturday, he returned the opening kickoff of the second half 47 yards into Bruins territory-a career-long. And according to him, moments like that allow Ross to be more ready to contribute on the offensive side of the ball.

"It helps a lot getting me in the game, getting the ball in my hands," Ross said. "I'm a guy who feeds off just getting in there. The more I'm in the game, the better I'll play." Ironically, Ross's most memorable moment on Saturday-when he hurdled clear over a UCLA defender-didn't count in the box score, nullified by an illegal block by Kevin Riley. Even still, Ross "got props" for the play. "A lot of (the receivers) told me that was a good play," Ross said. "Some told me, 'I didn't know you had it in you.'" One shouldn't necessarily expect a replay against Oregon, though. "Never happened before," Ross said when asked if he'd ever vaulted a defender before. "Not in high school ... It just happened (on Saturday)."

Ducks Do Damage on Ground

The imperative of containing the Ducks' running offense-which leads the nation with 30 rushing touchdowns-extends much further than just containing Oregon's top two backs. Sophomore LeGarrette Blount and senior Jeremiah Johnson lead the way with 1,100 yards and 21 touchdowns between them-but don't forget about JuCo transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who, according to Jeff Tedford, is an equally adept runner.

"Very explosive," Tedford said of the Ducks' rushing attack. "Blount is a big physical guy. Johnson is a guy that can make you miss. And then Masoli, he's like another running back, back there playing quarterback. (Masoli) is a dangerous guy out there." Many seem to think Cal's switch to the 3-4, which puts more speed on the field, makes the Bears more well-equipped to deal with the potent rushing attack, but Tedford wasn't eager to concede that point. "I don't know if you say being in a 3-4 is just going to stop it," Tedford said. "You still have to make plays, but naturally, it puts more speed on the field than the 4-3." Another wrinkle of the Oregon offense is second-year coordinator Chip Kelly. Despite the success found in consecutive victories against the Ducks in 2006 and 2007-against the likes of Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart-Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory pointed to Kelly's run-centered offense as being a major difference.  "Every year is different," Gregory said. "This is only (Kelly's) second year there and so we're still figuring him out a little bit and what he likes. (The Oregon offense) is still the spread, but he has his own deal. Everyone has their own wrinkles."

Foot, Not Elbow, Bothering Best

After two weeks and over 200 rushing yards, it's safe to say that any lingering concerns about the strength of tailback Jahvid Best's elbow can be put to rest.  "The elbow is feeling perfect," Best said via teleconference. "I didn't have any problems with it (against UCLA)." Perfect may not be the best word to describe the condition of Best's foot. What Best initially described as a sprained ankle, he is now calling a foot problem-an injury that stemmed from gradual wear and tear.  "It's more of a foot kind of deal," Best said. "It's like a foot sprain. Any time I put pressure on my foot, I kind of feel it ... (My) foot is a little sore. I'm rehabbing that and getting back to 100 percent." Even still, Best confidently pledged he would be ready to go come Saturday at 12:30 p.m. "We're working on it and it will be ready for this weekend."

Contra Costa Times: Ezeff's play to remember still burns like an ember at Cal

By Jonathan Okanes


Marcus Ezeff must have known Oregon was coming to town. The Ducks seem to bring out the playmaking in the Cal safety.  A week before playing Oregon, Ezeff intercepted two passes against UCLA, returning one 69 yards for a touchdown, in a 41-20 victory.  With the Ducks scheduled to visit Memorial Stadium on Saturday, the focus turned to last year's game at Oregon, when Ezeff forced a crucial fumble with time winding down to preserve a 31-24 victory.  Ezeff revisited that play this week, one that at the time seemed to be a moment that could go down as one of the most memorable in Cal history. It helped the Bears move to 5-0 and up to No. 3 in the national rankings.  But Cal couldn't build off of it, instead losing six of its final seven regular-season games to drop out of national and Pac-10 contention.

With Cal leading 31-24, quarterback Dennis Dixon led Oregon on a furious drive, moving the Ducks 77 yards in just over a minute. But with the Ducks at the Cal 5-yard line, Dixon connected with wide receiver Cameron Colvin on a crossing pattern. Colvin sprinted for the left pylon and tried to stretch the ball over the goal line. Ezeff delivered a big hit, knocking the ball out of Colvin's hands before he scored. The ball bounced through the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback.  "They ran a double pick on me and (former Cal cornerback) Brandon Hampton, and I just tried to get on top of it," Ezeff said. "I just saw Cameron Colvin reaching out for the pylon, and I just tried to put a hit on him. I didn't even know he fumbled the ball until (Hampton) told me after the play."  The Bears then had to wait several minutes while the play was reviewed, and it was finally ruled a touchback. Cal ran out the clock to polish off the win.

"I remember the great hustle and the desire to get there," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "It would have been very easy for him to just throw his hands up and say, 'I got picked.'"‰" He didn't give up on the play. He ran over the top and sprinted to it and made a huge play. It's the 100 percent effort that he gave on that play that I will always remember."

Practice makes perfect

It's not exactly a sexy matchup, but Saturday's game will feature two of the best centers in the country in Cal's Alex Mack and Oregon's Max Unger. Both are on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's top center. Mack was a finalist for the award last year. Cal nose tackle Derrick Hill says he's looking forward to the individual matchup with Unger. "Going against him is going to be a great experience," Hill said. "I go against the greatest center in the nation right now, so I feel pretty confident going into this game."

Extra points

Mack has been named a finalist for the Draddy Trophy, given annually to the top football scholar-athlete in the country. As a finalist, Mack will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. The winner will be announced at a special ceremony Dec. 9 in New York. ... Linebacker Zack Follett has been named one of 20 quarterfinalists for the Lott Trophy, given to a player who exhibits superior athletic performance and strong personal characteristics. ... Right tackles Chet Teofilo (ankle) and Matt Laird (shoulder) have yet to practice this week, and it appears junior college transfer Donovan Edwards will make his first career start against Oregon. ... Tedford said defensive end Rulon Davis has started running on a treadmill as he rehabs from a leg injury suffered Sept. 27 against Colorado State. Tedford said Davis still is a few weeks away from playing, but "he'll definitely be back this year at some point."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Register-Guard: Bay Area Ducks plan to keep calm


Jeremiah Masoli’s wild ride from fifth string in fall camp to the starting quarterback for Oregon takes him next to his home turf. As many as nine Bay Area natives could travel with the Ducks to their game Saturday against California in Berkeley, Calif., at 12:30 p.m. Among the group will be at least four starters: defensive tackle Ra’Shon Harris, free safety T.J. Ward, left tackle Fenuki Tupou and Masoli, who is expected to make his sixth straight start for the No. 23 Ducks (6-2, 4-1 Pac-10).

Memorial Stadium hasn’t always been friendly confines for UO players from the Bay Area. In 2006, East Bay native Dennis Dixon threw an early interception that got the ball rolling in a 45-24 victory for the Golden Bears. “I talked to our entire team about that (Monday), those that are going back to play in front of friends and family,” UO coach Mike Bellotti said. “The last time we went down there some of those young men that were in that situation played very poorly. They were so amped and so excited, they worried endlessly about their performance. We talked a lot about, we have to play with poise and confidence, and just relax and let it go.”  Bellotti said he planned to speak personally with Masoli on the subject. The sophomore quarterback from San Francisco said he already had a similar discussion with his position coach, UO offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.  “He just said, play within yourself,” Masoli said. “That’s my main thing. Just play within myself, one play at a time, execute what I’ve got to execute and not try to make things happen out of nothing.”

Harris, Ward, cornerback Willie Glasper and Tonio Celotto are all from the East Bay, and defensive tackle Blake Ferras is from San Jose. Two true freshman linebackers who have travelled part-time this season, Josh Kaddu (Vacaville) and Dewitt Stuckey (Stockton), are from the greater Bay Area, as is Tupou, a native of Sacramento. “It’s going to be nice to be closer to family,” Tupou said. “But it’s still a game. We have to go in there focused. I’m expecting a lot of family to come, and I can’t let that get to me.” Tupou said he plans to wait until after the game to visit with family. Masoli, too, expects to see plenty of familiar faces during the trip. “Distractions are huge,” Masoli said. “So we just want to keep that to a minimum.”

Fewer yellow hankies

After committing 21 total penalties in games against Washington State and USC, the Ducks cut their total to five in victories over UCLA and Arizona State. “They’re just playing within the rules and playing hard, doing good things in that way,” Bellotti said. “We have not put any emphasis, positive or negative, on penalties.”

Of the five penalties over the past two games, two were on special teams and none came on offense. For the season, Oregon is seventh in the Pac-10 with 53 penalties for an average of 58.6 yards per game.

Tight end tandem

Junior tight end Ed Dickson was Oregon’s leading receiver with 20 catches through the first four games of the season but has just three in the four games since. Bellotti said the discrepancy owes partly to a nagging leg injury and partly to the development of sophomore backup Malachi Lewis. “They’re both great athletes and playmakers who both have to improve their blocking, in all honesty,” Bellotti said. “But they have the potential not just to catch the ball but catch the ball and make big plays. So I’m excited about their development. I’m excited they’re all underclassmen. We’re gradually getting Malachi more reps, and I think he’s earning those. And I think it keeps Ed fresh.” Dickson has 310 yards and two touchdowns on the season, while Lewis has two receptions for 11 yards. Each failed to come up with a pass in the end zone at Arizona State last week.

Mirror images at center

Saturday’s matchup features two of the nation’s best centers in Oregon’s Max Unger and California’s Alex Mack. “They’re very, very similar,” Bellotti said. “If you watch the two play, they have an attitude about football, they’re very aggressive, they’re energetic. They’re talented in terms of their ability to pull, to run, to block a nose guard. They’re great football players.”  Unger and Mack are two of 43 players on the fall watch list for the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center. In fact, seven Pac-10 centers are on the list, including Washington State’s Kenny Alfred, USC’s Kristopher O’Dowd, Stanford’s Alex Fletcher, Washington’s Juan Garcia and Arizona’s Blake Kerley.


Oregonian: Bears' defensive alignment will be a new test for Ducks

The story of Oregon versus California, in recent years, has been about similarities.  The Ducks and Bears seem to share coaching staffs. They recruit the same type of athlete in the same areas. They have similar personalities as dynamic, offensive-minded teams. They were separated by about an inch last season (Oregon fans still remember that goal-line fumble). They even come into Saturday's game with nearly identical records.

But California has duplicated Oregon's success last season in forcing turnovers, and it has done it in a dramatically different way: The Golden Bears run a 3-4 defense, one that has been quite effective at stopping the run.  "I'm not saying it's going to shut it down," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said of the Bears' chances against Oregon's running game, which ranks fifth in the nation (279 yards per game). "I hope we can limit the big plays, but yeah, I think it gives us a better chance."  Last week, Cal held UCLA to 16 rushing yards -- granted, the Bruins didn't fare a whole lot better against Oregon (63 yards) -- but the Bears have held three other opponents under 100 yards on the ground. And when those frustrated teams turn to the pass, the Bears have had the answer there, too. Their 15 interceptions are five more than they had all of last season, six more than Oregon's total and puts them second in the nation (behind North Carolina).

In all, Cal has forced 19 turnovers, with a plus-10 turnover margin -- that's third-best in the nation (behind Minnesota and TCU).  And nearly as fresh in the memory of Oregon fans as Cameron Colvin's goal-line fumble in last year's 31-24 loss is the implosion in Berkeley a year before that. In that game, a 45-24 loss to the Bears, Dennis Dixon threw an interception on the game's first play from scrimmage.  Asked for a key to Saturday's game, Ducks (6-2, 4-1 Pac-10) coach Mike Bellotti didn't hesitate.  "Don't throw an interception on the first play of the game ... on your own 5-yard line," Bellotti said.  That would certainly help. But this game should come down to who can stop the other team's running game. Again, the similarities: Oregon's 30 rushing touchdowns lead the nation; Cal (5-2, 3-1) has one of the most potent running weapons around in Jahvid Best (107 yards per game).

Both have big, experienced lines led by excellent centers (Oregon's Max Unger and Cal's Alex Mack). Want another similarity? Cal's 6-foot-6, 330-pound left tackle, freshman Mitchell Schwartz, has the same size and parents as former Oregon tackle Geoff Schwartz.  Is Cal's 3-4 defense the great equalizer in a series with so many similarities? Bellotti said it's a pretty good way to combat the spread rushing attack.  The whole spread idea is based on spreading out a defense and putting a superior athlete on a defender, in space. Then, with a spread-option, the quarterback is free to take advantage of the open areas and the numbers advantage.

But in a 3-4, that defender in charge of stopping the quarterback -- and Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli (255 rushing yards in the past two games) has been fairly unstoppable -- is a quicker player.  "The edge protector is not a defensive lineman now, it's a linebacker, who's maybe a little bit more used to playing in space," Bellotti said. "And athletically, they might match up better with a quarterback."  So much of Oregon's offensive preparation this week has been about lining up against this 3-4. Most teams use the 3-4 occasionally -- as the Ducks do in passing situations -- but Cal is the first team to have it as its primary alignment.  "For me, it's a lot different," said tackle C.E. Kaiser, who is facing the 3-4 for the first time and welcomed this week's walk-throughs as a much-needed primer. "It's going to be a lot different, but nothing we can't handle. I'm going to be pushing out the linebacker a lot, now that I think about it. We're working it out right now."  Even center Max Unger, the fifth-year senior and leader of the offensive line, is having to watch a lot of video this week of the Bears' front.

"We haven't actually faced anything quite like this one," said Unger, who will have to be nose-to-nose with a defensive tackle for a change. "Stanford played a version of it, but Cal runs a lot of stuff."  With all that linebacker speed to contend with, look for the Ducks to run right at Cal, with a steady diet of 230-pound LeGarrette Blount.  "A lot of spread teams will go more to a power running game versus the 3-4, attacking the bubbles more directly, as opposed to running laterally," Bellotti said.  Running every which way, the Ducks have rushed for at least 300 yards in five of their eight games. And if the Bears' 3-4 defense can hold Oregon down like it has some other rushing attacks this season, then that indeed would be a different story.

Notes: Bellotti said Jeremiah Masoli will start at quarterback on Saturday. He also said tight end Ed Dickson's inconsistent play is due to a lingering leg injury. After catching 20 passes in the first four games, Dickson has gone without a reception in three of the past four games. Malachi Lewis has been getting an increasing number of snaps at tight end. ... Bellotti said the team's health is good and that everyone who made the travel squad last week should be ready for Saturday. Backup rover Marvin Johnson (knee) is expected to be ready, too.


Daily Emerald: Masoli starting at quarterback, at least for the time being


For the first time in what seems like a very long time, Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti has announced a starter for Saturday's game at California: sophomore Jeremiah Masoli.  It comes as no surprise, after Masoli won Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for his performance leading the Ducks to a 54-20 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils, that the coach would feel comfortable naming him as the starter going forward.

Monday at practice Bellotti said "yes" when asked if Masoli was "the guy." But as he walked away, the coach said over his shoulder, "He's the guy for right now, anyway." Tuesday at his weekly press conference, Bellotti answered the question with a simple "yes," and nothing further.  Masoli has completed more than 55 percent of his passes on the season, and has thrown six touchdowns to two interceptions. His problem was with "touch" - the adjustment in flight trajectory a pass is given by a quarterback depending on the situation.

Bellotti said Masoli has had good touch on his passes all along. He just needed to learn how to use it.  "He's a very good passer. It's just a question of experience," Bellotti said. "Part of that is just understanding this level of football, the speed and athleticism of the defensive players, the way balls need to be thrown to give receivers the best opportunity to catch them." Last week's performance at Arizona State was a step in the right direction on that front, Bellotti said. "He's improving, in my opinion, dramatically," he said. "Last game was a huge improvement from the game before."  Bellotti described Masoli's leadership as growing, but characterized the relationship between his rise up the depth chart and his position as a team leader as a sort of "chicken or the egg" type of argument: which came first?

"His leadership has been commensurate with his performance. It's grown as his confidence in himself and the team's confidence in him has grown," Bellotti said. "You earn that, and a quarterback has to be a leader by virtue of what he does … but there are certain things you can do with the football in your hands, or even sometimes without the football in your hands, that can cement your role as a leader."  That role seems cemented now, as Bellotti said Masoli has earned the respect of his teammates by both word and deed, but it didn't happen overnight. Bellotti said Masoli came into fall camp quietly going about his business and even had to be told by coaches to speak up. "I think he was just sort of feeling his way," Bellotti said. "He was just trying to not say anything until he had earned that respect on the field or by virtue of his play. The more opportunities he got the more comfortable and confident he became." And now that he's arrived? Bellotti certainly seems pleased. "He's faster than people think. He's tougher and quicker than people think," he said. "We're just happy to have him here."

Mercury News: Cal coach Tedford lightening up on QB Riley


Even California coach Jeff Tedford is starting to wonder whether he's being too hard on Kevin Riley.

The sophomore quarterback will start Saturday's key home game against No. 23 Oregon "as of right now," Tedford said Tuesday. Yet Riley, who reclaimed the starting job last week, will share first-team practice snaps for yet another week with senior Nate Longshore, the former starter who reclaimed the job himself for two games in October.  Tedford's weekly flip-flopping at the Golden Bears' (5-2, 3-1 Pac-10) most important position has been disconcerting to both passers and disheartening to fans, and it also goes against Tedford's long-standing distaste for two-quarterback systems. He improbably benched Riley after a 42-7 victory last month, only to change his mind again after pulling Longshore during a loss at Arizona two weeks ago.

The veteran coach gave up play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti this fall, yet Tedford admits he can't stop monkeying with his own schemes. Now even he's wondering if it's fair to his team, which is averaging 37.9 points and 409.7 yards per game while ranking in the top half of the Pac-10 in both rushing and passing.   "I've probably been overly critical of our offense," Tedford said. "There's a lot of good things that are happening out there. ... While we're always looking for perfection, I think we can be overly critical of things. We just need to be more consistent."

Tedford still believes his weekly quarterback re-evaluations are necessary, but he finally acknowledges the Bears' season-long uncertainty might have contributed to Riley's inconsistencies in the first place. Longshore's struggles last season were a main cause of Cal's memorable collapse from a No. 2 national ranking to a 7-6 record, and Tedford seems hyper-vigilant against any such slippages from his passers this year.

"We're in a position where we need to make decisions each week until this thing separates itself," Tedford said. "It's something we're always evaluating. Some years, there's no evaluating to be done. When (Kyle) Boller was the quarterback (in 2002), Boller was going to be the quarterback. When Aaron Rodgers was the quarterback (in 2004), Rodgers was going to be the quarterback. You didn't even think about it from week to week."   Riley isn't yet worthy of comparison with the best quarterbacks in Cal's recent history, but he seems to possess the arm strength, athleticism and smarts to get there. He has completed more than 53 percent of his passes this season for 985 yards and nine touchdowns with just two interceptions in 150 pass attempts, compared to four in 91 attempts for Longshore, who has a higher completion percentage (59.3).

After Tuesday night's practice, Riley still didn't know Tedford had essentially named him the starter several hours earlier. When asked about his recent play, the quarterback wasn't exactly brimming with confidence.

"After I watched the film, I felt a little better about the UCLA game," Riley said. "There's still some throws I wish I could take back, but overall, I thought it was OK. Needs to be better, of course. ... Everybody expects more, and we expected by now that we'd be more in a rhythm all around, like consecutive four quarters playing good offense."

Riley went 11-of-22 for 153 yards and two touchdowns in Cal's 41-20 victory over UCLA, but he made plays that don't stick out on a stat sheet. Tedford's favorite moment was Riley's poise in the pocket on his 53-yard TD pass to Nyan Boateng on a flea-flicker, when Riley adeptly avoided the rush while catching the pitchback from Jahvid Best before hitting Boateng on the fly nearly 60 yards away.   "Expecting guys to complete every pass, that's not going to happen," Tedford said. "As I'm watching tape, every quarterback misses throws, but I think we're kind of used to Aaron Rodgers. I think it's a little too easy to be critical of a very tough position. Kevin is playing fine. Is he going to miss a guy now and then? Everybody does. I thought Kevin played a good game last week."

Riley also has an edge over Longshore against the Ducks because of his superior mobility. Riley is shorter yet more athletic than the stiff-legged Longshore, and Tedford realizes Cal's quarterback could be on the run for much of the afternoon against Oregon's standout defensive line.  The quarterbacks' teammates claim they don't care who's in the pocket, yet the receivers praise Riley's superior arm strength, while the offensive linemen laud Riley's mobility. With just two months left in Longshore's college career, Tedford could invest in his future by putting Riley in charge—but the coach isn't yet ready to give up on his weekly audition for the job, even though he claims he would love to do it.  "I don't believe in the two-quarterback system," Tedford said. "I do not want to bounce back and forth if not need be. You'd like to have a quarterback and be settled on him and go from there."

CBS Sports: California vs. Oregon


Oregon has had to deal its share of quarterback issues this season. Despite that, the Ducks still find themselves tied atop the Pac-10.  Led by transfer Jeremiah Masoli, the No. 23 Ducks look to win their third straight and maintain their hold on first place in the conference Saturday when they visit California, a team dealing with its own issues at quarterback.  Masoli, who led City College of San Francisco to the junior college national championship last year, began the season as the No. 3 quarterback for Oregon (6-2, 4-1). However, presumptive starter Nate Costa underwent knee surgery after getting injured during fall camp and backup Justin Roper also hurt his knee in September, leading to Masoli taking over.

Masoli has started the last four games, throwing for 506 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He got the start last week against Arizona State even though Roper was available, and made the most of the opportunity in a 54-20 win. Masoli was 17-of-26 for 147 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while running eight times for 85 yards and a TD.  "He's very explosive and a lot of people underestimate his speed, especially in taking poor angles in pursuit, and he showed that tonight," coach Mike Bellotti said.

Oregon led 23-6 after the first half, then scored 21 points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.

The win kept the Ducks tied with Southern California for the top spot in the Pac-10 and moved them back into the rankings for the first time in nearly a month.  "The biggest thing for tonight was we wanted to get a message across to the young players about finishing the second half of the season," Bellotti said. "Tonight was the first step toward getting to that conference championship, and we started tonight by winning on the road."  Like Oregon, California (5-2, 3-1) has been dealing with uncertainty under center, but has also been able to overcome it and contend for the conference title. Cal is tied for third place in the Pac-10, a half-game behind USC and Oregon, both of whom the Bears still have to play.

Cal is coming off a 41-20 win over UCLA last Saturday, bouncing back from a loss to Arizona the previous week that dropped it out of the Top 25. Kevin Riley, told he would start at quarterback the day before last week's game, was 11-of-22 for 153 yards and two touchdowns.  "He had a good week at practice," coach Jeff Tedford said. "We felt we had some things, like a quarterback draw, that he would do well for us. That's why he got the start."  Riley reclaimed his starting job - at least for one week - after losing it for two games to Nate Longshore, who started for the Bears in 2006 and '07 but was beaten out by Riley during training camp. Riley got lots of help last week from the Bears defense, which held the Bruins to 253 yards of offense and returned two interceptions for scores.

Whoever starts at quarterback Saturday for Cal hopes the defense can turn in another dominating performance, this time against one of the nation's most prolific ground games. Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount each rushed for 58 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday for Oregon, which ran for 304 yards overall - the third time in four games the Ducks have reached the 300-yard mark.  Oregon ranks fifth in the nation in rushing at 278.8 yards per game. The Ducks, though, will be facing a California defense that's holding opponents to 95.7 yards on the ground.

California has won three of the last four meetings and two straight, with Oregon being ranked in both of the last two games. The Bears took last season's matchup 31-24 on the road, with Longshore throwing for 285 yards and two touchdowns as then-No. 6 Cal knocked off then-No. 11 Oregon 31-24 last Sept. 29.

Daily Cal: Tedford Says Riley Is Starter 'As of Now'

By Andrew Kim


For the first time in nearly a month, Cal coach Jeff Tedford committed -- though ever so slightly -- to a starting quarterback early in the week.  Asked whether Kevin Riley would remain his starter against Oregon at today's media luncheon, Tedford answered, yes, "as of now." Still, Riley and senior Nate Longshore will continue to split reps in practice, according to Tedford.  It appears that Riley has created a small bit of separation over the 2007 incumbent, as Tedford suggested that the redshirt sophomore had a sizable hand in the Bears' 41-20 win over UCLA last Saturday.   "I think the difference in the game was decision-making," Tedford said. "They had four turnovers, we had zero. Kevin was harassed a little bit, but held on to the ball, pulled it down when he needed to. He didn't make any poor decisions with the ball, and that becomes critical in a close game."

Riley went 11-of-22 against the Bruins in a two-touchdown effort. For the season, the quarterback carries a 53.3 completion percentage, but as Tedford noted, he's been able to avoid turnovers tossing just two interceptions in 150 attempts.  But since his first start in the season opener against Michigan State on Aug. 30, Riley hasn't broken the 60-percent mark with his throws. The win over UCLA saw the first time Riley broke the 50-percent mark in October.  Nevertheless, Tedford seems to have seen enough accuracy in Riley's throws to commit this early. Leading up to the last few games, Tedford had waited until Thursday or even Friday night to make his decision. "I thought he made some really good throws (against the Bruins)," Tedford said. "He made some throws with tight coverages that were right there, where (the defense) either made a good play or we maybe dropped the ball."

Tedford said he was also impressed with the way Riley sidestepped UCLA tackle Brian Price during the flea-flicker that produced a 53-yard score to wideout Nyan Boateng.  Aside from his knack for avoiding turnovers, Riley's ability to stave out of the pocket could provide the sophomore with some much needed job security.  "His mobility, pulling the ball down and go, gives us an extra dimension that isn't always there with Nate," Tedford said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Votes are currently being taken for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award.  You can see Alex Mack’s profile here. Fan balloting counts for 1/3 of the total with the remaining 2/3 determined by NCAA Division I coaches and national media members.  You can vote once a day, so bookmark the page here.


As of today, Alex Mack is tied for 6th place with a pathetic 4% of the vote.  Maurice Crum of Notre Dame has 44%, and some guy named Louie Sakoda has 17%.  We need to get the vote out.

Tedford Mentioned as Possible Washington Head Coach Replacement

The Seattle Times writes: “Tyrone Willingham said one reason he agreed to resign Monday is his hope that the Washington football family can now "come together."  That won't really happen, however, until the Huskies hire a new coach. Until then, the debate will rage — Jim Mora? Gary Pinkel? Jeff Tedford?  All of those names, and a few more, are thought to be on the short list of the two men who ultimately will make the decision: UW president Mark Emmert and athletic director Scott Woodward.”


“Other possibilities include California's Jeff Tedford, whom the Huskies tried to court in fall 2004 when they instead hired Willingham (the other two coaches UW interviewed then were Les Miles, then of Oklahoma State, who took the Louisiana State job that year, and Tom O'Brien, then of Boston College).”


Molly Yanity of the Seattle Post Intelligencer writes:

“Jeff Tedford: I wrote in my story from Oct. 10 that Tedford was said to be curious about the job. Given that the tree-sitters are gone, I figure that curiosity was simply a passing whim.”


John Boyle of the Kitsap Sun writes:

The names of Cal's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley seem to come up in a lot of coaching vacancies, but like Pinkel, neither may be willing give up their current success to start from the bottom just to earn a bigger pay check.


The News Tribune also mentions Tedford as a possible candidate.

Daily Cal: Turnover Numbers Way Up Through First Seven Games

By Matt Kawahara

After cornerback Daymeion Hughes graduated following the 2006 season, taking his 15 career interceptions with him to the NFL, the Cal secondary saw a huge drop in production in 2007.  The Bears finished dead last in the Pac-10 with 10 interceptions and ninth in turnover margin for the season.  Enter new defensive backs coach Al Simmons, a renewed Darian Hagan and a 3-4 defensive scheme, and Cal has already registered 15 picks and a plus-10 turnover margin through seven games-by far the conference's top total.  Four of those came in Saturday's 41-20 win over UCLA, two courtesy of safety Marcus Ezeff.  "It's great to have the two interceptions," said Ezeff, who ran one pick back 69 yards for a touchdown. "But at the same time, that's something that I expect out of myself."

That claim is looking less outlandish with each passing Saturday. Cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson leads the turnover brigade with three interceptions, while Sean Cattouse, Ezeff and safety Brett Johnson have two apiece.  "We've got to tip our hat to (defensive coordinator Bob Gregory) and (head coach Jeff Tedford) for bringing in Coach Simmons," Ezeff said. "I think coach Simmons is the big difference. He's brought a lot of just technique and being fundamentally sound."  Simmons rejoined the Bears' coaching staff this season after spending the last two years as the defensive backs coach for Arizona State. It ended an eight-year hiatus for Simmons from Memorial Stadium, where he held the same position for Cal from 1998 to 2000. During that stint, he helped transform Deltha O'Neal from a tailback into the first cornerback taken in the 2000 NFL Draft. "I think off last year and a couple years, not saying anything towards our other DB coaches, but he brings a lot of experience," Ezeff said. "(We're) kind of starting to feed off that and starting to believe ... Right now, you can see it's really working."

Defense Keeps it Close

The four interceptions were just one facet of an all-around defensive effort by the Bears, who eliminated UCLA's running game and put constant heat on Bruins quarterback Kevin Craft.  And just as it did three weeks ago against Arizona State, the defense kept Cal in the game while the Bears' offense stalled for the better part of the second and third quarters.   Senior linebacker Worrell Williams said that, despite seeing the Kevin Riley-led attack forced to punt on six of its first nine drives, the defense harbored no resentment after the game.  "Our coaches ... do a great job of getting our minds prepared for that each and every week," Williams said. "Regardless of if our offense is putting up 100 points a game, we still want to keep (opposing teams) at zero. We understand that some teams are gonna get some, but the mentality is to go out there every day and play tough."

Still, according to wideout Nyan Boateng, Williams was one of the defensive players who approached an offensive huddle during the third quarter for some words of encouragement.  "It's never like, you know, 'Come on, we're doing our job, you guys do your job,'" Williams said. "We're just motivation. 'We got your guys' back. You can't get it done, we're gonna help you get it done, but let's just get this thing going because we're just so explosive when we're clicking on all cylinders.'"

Edwards Fills in Right Side

After starting right tackle Chet Teofilo suffered a sprained ankle on Cal's first offensive drive, the Bears were forced to play musical linemen for the rest of the game.  Matt Laird replaced Teofilo and played until he sustained an injury of his own. Sophomore Donovan Edwards finished out the game.  "I thought Donovan did OK, from what I could tell," Tedford said. "Pulled out on a sweep one time, I thought he looked good out in the open field."  Edwards, listed on the depth chart as the backup left tackle, had taken very limited practice reps on the right side before Saturday. But according to Riley, he and Laird played relatively well in Teofilo's stead.  "The new tackles that came in the game, they did a good job," Riley said. "Very little experience between them both, but they did a good job."

Contra Costa Times: Defense Carries Ball for Cal

By Jonathan Okanes

Cal's offense is still trying to find itself. It's a good thing its defense is providing a lot of opportunities to practice.  The Bears defense keeps giving the ball back to the offense. Cal's 15 interceptions rank second in the nation, and the Bears are tied for third in turnover margin per game (1.43). Those numbers have helped Cal rank third in the Pac-10 in total defense (301.4 yards per game) and scoring defense (21.7 points per game).  "We really focused on turnovers during the whole offseason," said Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed, who was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week for defense on Monday after registering nine tackles and a 19-yard interception return for touchdown against UCLA on Saturday. "That's big. If we can get more turnovers than them, it gives our team a better chance to win."

It's clear just from watching the Bears play this season that there has been a renewed focus on winning the turnover battle. But it was even clearer earlier. Since the first day of training camp, Cal has spent the first few periods of practice going through a turnover circuit, with players moving from station to station across the field to participate in turnover-minded drills. Coach Jeff Tedford placed a greater emphasis on winning the turnover war this season after hashing over the stats. During his first six years at Cal, the Bears were 28-2 when they win the battle, 10-18 when they lose it and 12-6 when it's even.

Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said there are a few reasons the Bears have had so much success with turnovers this season, especially interceptions. One is Cal's switch to the 3-4 base defense.  "We have some good players," Gregory said. "The 3-4 has helped us a little bit. Certainly, pressure on the quarterback out of the 3-4 has helped." Cal is on pace to break the school record of 23 interceptions in a season, set in 1953.

Extra points

Right tackles Chet Teofilo (ankle) and Matt Laird (shoulder) appear doubtful for Saturday's game against Oregon. Donovan Edwards, who switched over from left tackle to finish the game against UCLA, should get the reps there this week in practice. ... … Oregon has the fifth-best rushing attack in the country, averaging 278.8 yards per game. Cal ranks 12th nationally in rushing defense (95.7 ypg).


Oregon Statesman: Ducks look to next road test

One road test down, another one on the way.  Oregon showed its mettle last week with a 54-20 victory at Arizona State, and the Ducks figure to take momentum into Saturday's matchup at California.  "It's a big game because we're playing for the Pac-10 championship," tailback Jeremiah Johnson said before Monday's practice. "Whoever comes up with a 'W' in this game is going to be in a good situation."  No. 23 Oregon, No. 7 USC, Cal and Oregon State have one conference loss apiece. Oregon and USC are tied for first place, one-half game ahead of Cal and OSU. The Ducks can win the outright Pac-10 championship and play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 if they win their last four games and USC loses one conference game.

To stay on course for a title run, Oregon needs to keep its road warrior mentality intact. After the Cal game, the Ducks host Stanford (Nov. 8) and Arizona (Nov. 15) before concluding the regular season Nov. 29 at Oregon State.  Although ASU is struggling — the Sun Devils have lost five consecutive games — a 34-point win on the road is impressive. "It doesn't affect Cal at all, but it does affect our mindset," coach Mike Bellotti said. "I think certainly we have to feel we've passed the first test."  Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli passed a test of sorts as well in the ASU game.  Coming off a 5 of 19 passing performance against UCLA (he rushed for 170 yards), Masoli was 17 of 26 for 147 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. He also ran for a team-high 85 yards and a score as the Ducks amassed 537 yards in total offense.

"I feel like it was great for my confidence and the team in our passing game, just to open it up," said Masoli, who was named Pac-10 offensive player of the week.  In last year's Cal game at Autzen Stadium, both teams came in undefeated. The Bears prevailed 31-24 after Ducks wide receiver Cameron Colvin fumbled the ball out of the end zone in the final minute stretching for the potential tying score. Cal has won two consecutive games in the series. "I wasn't on the team two years ago, but we do owe them for the past two years," middle linebacker Casey Matthews said. It will be a short week for the Ducks, who didn't arrive in Eugene until early Sunday morning after the ASU game. Oregon was coming off a bye week in preparation for the Sun Devils.


Place-kicker Matt Evensen was named Pac-10 special teams player of the week. He made 2 of 3 field goals in the ASU game, including a career-long 52 yarder, and was 5 of 5 on extra points. Evensen also had 5 of his 10 kickoffs go for touchbacks.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Oregonian: Oregon QB Gets Player of the Week


Jeremiah Masoli, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 147 yards Saturday night at Arizona State, has been named Pac-10 offensive player of the week. He also rushed for 85 yards.  Kicker Matt Evensen, who had a career-long 52-yard field goal, also won special teams player of the week. Strangely, the Ducks' best unit that day, the defense, was not honored. No defensive player had monstrous numbers, but the award could have gone to any of the four defensive backs.


The Oregonian: Uh oh, Cal is favored over the Ducks


By Ken Goe

The Las Vegas oddsmakers and the smart money usually have things pegged pretty well, so they must not be too impressed with the way Oregon blew out Arizona State Saturday in Sun Devil Stadium.  The Ducks dominated and appeared to have offensive rhythm and cohesion with Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback. Defensively, they made ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter's life miserable. But maybe ASU is just that bad. The Ducks have played two ranked teams, and they lost both games -- at home to Boise State and badly to USC in the L.A. Coliseum. This doesn't look like a great California team. The Bears are unsettled on offense, particularly at quarterback, where Beaverton High's Kevin Riley seems to have moved ahead of Nate Longshore. But in the betting line carried in this morning's Oregonian, Cal was a three-point favorite.


Daily Cal: Nothing Tricky About It: Ride Best, Vereen

By Jack Ross

The trick-or-treat ultimatum came about a week early for the Cal football team. Luckily for those at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, the Bears didn't have to pick one or the other-they got both. Most of the treats came via UCLA quarterback Kevin "Mr. Freeze" Craft, who forced throws all over the place and stayed ice cold in the clutch.  His four interceptions were a mixed bag: Some were forced, others tipped, some gift-wrapped presents turned into touchdowns by Michael Mohamed and Marcus Ezeff. And all must have been rather ugly for those on the Bruins' sideline.  But with the Bears' offense struggling after a scoreless third quarter, Craft's exploits were enough to keep his side in the game.  Then came Cal's trick.

With a 20-13 advantage to open the final quarter, sophomore receiver Nyan Boateng motioned towards the line, like he often does as a blocker on running plays. Only this time, he wasn't intending to "crack" anyone. His intent was to fool them deep after Jahvid Best and Kevin Riley played hot potato with the football at the line of scrimmage.  "I don't know if you (reporters) see it, but I'm always motioning in and cracking linebackers, cracking safeties," Boateng said. "The safety actually met me at my break point, which was a good thing. It was a great call."  And since the last time the Bears ran a trick play of this magnitude was a long time ago-Tedford mentioned a 2005 game in Oregon that involved the legendary Joe Ayoob-it was no surprise that the trickery came as something of a surprise to Best.

"It's something we practice," Best said of his carry-turned-59-yard-touchdown-pass. "I never really think we're gonna run it. We did and thankfully it came out good."  Though the end result certainly did come out well, the person who ultimately put the practice play into action was something of a mystery. The rest of the team did admit afterwards that Tedford ultimately decided to pull the trick, though Best noted that the play "bounced around about five times" before they settled on the flea-flicker.  Not surprisingly, Tedford was slightly more coded.  Some brave reporter mustered up the courage to ask the coach who actually called for the illusion itself. And Tedford, in typically coy fashion, responded with some alluding of his own:

"It got called."  It got called. Whatever those words reveal about the schema between Tedford and his offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti is open for interpretation-one that is certainly way above the pay grade of a student-reporter.  What is hardly open for interpretation is why the Bears were able to call such a play and, most importantly, why it worked. Tedford and the majority of the offensive unit touched on the hard-charging Bruins' secondary which necessitated some sleight of hand on the part of the offense.  "It was a perfect opportunity," Tedford said. "They were very aggressive in the run game. The safeties were really getting up in there. That was a great opportunity for the flea flicker."  A great opportunity, indeed. And an opportunity that also suggests how the Bears need to approach their offense for the rest of the season-by continuing to get busy on the ground.  In the post-game press conference, Boateng candidly admitted that the Cal offense has yet to find its calling card:  "Our offense, we're still trying to find our identity," he said.

Yet perhaps the "run first to set up the pass" identity that would befit a team boasting two rushing play makers of Best and Shane Vereen's caliber was on display repeatedly Saturday, as the two combined to break 200 yards easily.  When the Bears were at their best, they insisted on getting the duo the ball at all costs-like the sparkling six-play drive where the pair touched the ball all but once, capped off by Best's highlight-reel touchdown run.  And when Cal dropped into shotgun sets and took itself out of rhythm with incompletions and holding penalties (like it did for the majority of the third quarter), it started to sputter.

On Saturday, the Bears' sultry one-two step of Best and Vereen gave the offense the chance to pull a trick on the UCLA defense.  If Cal continues to prioritize outgrinding their opposition, they could pull an even bigger trick on the rest of the Pac-10.  Next week's post-Halloween tilt with Oregon is the first step in that direction.


Halloween Note From Blogger

On a personal note, I’m finalizing my decorations for Halloween, which you can see here.  I learned a lot about party throwing at Cal.

Willingham Resigns

Willingham to step down at end of season

Washington coach Tyrone Willingham says he will step down at the end of the 2008 season.  The Huskies fell to 0-7 on Saturday after a 33-7 loss to Notre Dame. Willingham and athletic director Scott Woodward made the announcement at a news conference Monday. Willingham has been under fire for being unable to turn around the Washington program. He is 11-32 overall in his four seasons. Washington currently has a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season, tied with North Texas for the longest in the country among major schools.  Woodward has said he did not want to change coaches during the season. But he said Monday's announcement ends speculation of what is going to happen and lets the team focus on the final five games.



SF Chronicle: More changes on O-line

By Rusty Simmons

The injury reports on right tackles Chet Teofilo and Matt Laird had not been finalized Sunday, but coach Jeff Tedford intimated that neither will be positive.   Teofilo sprained his ankle on the first offensive series of the Bears' 41-20 win over UCLA on Saturday, and Laird had a flare-up of a right shoulder injury that has plagued his career. Teofilo was in a walking boot, and Laird was adorned with a sling at Sunday's practice. "Chet's ankle is pretty stiff, so I'd have to say he's questionable to doubtful," Tedford said. Cal already has lost starting left guard Chris Guarnero for the season with a toe injury, and projected starting left tackle Mike Tepper has yet to play as he rehabilitates from offseason pectoral surgery. Asked if there is now more urgency for Tepper's return, Tedford said, "There's nothing we can do about it." Instead, the Bears will turn to 6-foot-5, 285-pound Donovan Edwards, a transfer from Diablo Valley College who had taken limited snaps on the right side before Saturday.  "He played pretty well," Tedford said. "I was impressed that he knew what he was doing, and he'll be even better this week after a lot of reps."

Riley review: After reviewing video of Saturday's game, Tedford softened his postgame comments about quarterback Kevin Riley. "He actually threw some really good balls," Tedford said. "He made good decisions. He was smart and careful with the football." Immediately after the game, in which Riley went 11-for-22 for 153 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, Tedford said, "We need to be better, and I think Kevin would tell you that."   Tedford again lauded Riley's play on a 53-yard flea-flicker touchdown to Nyan Boateng, when the quarterback avoided a rusher while receiving the pitch from Jahvid Best and turned and fired an accurate pass about 60 yards in the air. Tedford also said a couple of Riley's passes on post patterns could have drawn pass-interference calls.

It was Riley's first start since a Sept. 27 win over Colorado State. Senior Nate Longshore went 1-1 in the starting role, beating Arizona State and losing at Arizona. According to Tedford, both quarterbacks are dealing nicely with the revolving door at the position.  "It takes guys who are team guys," Tedford said. "They are both high-character guys, who are supportive of each other in the meeting rooms and on the field." 

Defensive domination: Cal's defense limited UCLA to 253 yards of total offense, including 16 rushing yards and four turnovers. The effort was due in large part to the individual efforts of linebacker Michael Mohamed and defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, Tedford said. Alualu had six tackles, including two sacks, and he batted down two passes. Mohamed, who is second on the team with 45 tackles despite not starting, had nine tackles, a sack and an interception that he returned 19 yards for a touchdown.


"Mike takes a lot of pride in being able to do the things we ask him to do," Tedford said. "He puts himself in position to make a lot of plays, and he's athletic enough to get it done when he's there."


SF Chronicle: Now, things get tough for Cal

By Jake Curtis

Numbers can be deceiving.  The score in Cal's 41-20 victory over UCLA suggests the Bears' offense bulldozed the Bruins.  Not so. Two of the Bears' first four touchdowns were scored by their defense, and the final one came inside the two-minute mark with the game already decided. Cal coach Jeff Tedford called his team's offensive performance "not very good," and in assessing quarterback Kevin Riley's play, Tedford said, "We need to be better." In conclusion, the coach said, "It was not a pretty game." Cal's 5-2 overall record and 3-1 Pac-10 mark seem to indicate the Bears are rolling along on schedule. But things are not so rosy, for two reasons: The quarterback position is unsettled and their three toughest conference opponents are up next.  Seven games into the season and Cal still does not know who its quarterback will be for its next game. Riley found out Friday he would start against UCLA, but his showing Saturday did not nail down the starting job for the Oregon game. It might be Friday before Tedford decides whether Riley or Nate Longshore will be the man against Oregon, and such uncertainty at quarterback is a problem.

Quarterback troubles are commonplace in the Pac-10 this year, but Oregon, Washington, Washington State and UCLA have excuses, as injuries have sidelined their top quarterbacks. Health has not been an issue for Cal quarterbacks.  Riley did not throw any interceptions Saturday, but he failed to complete more than half his passes for the fourth time in his six games. "The offense is still trying to find an identity," Cal wide recover Nyan Boateng said. "I don't think we played very well today." Tedford does not think the offense has played well all season. "Defensively, we have played steady, but the offense has been off and on," he said. "We have not been as good as expected offensively. We have not been consistent."  And now, the competition gets a lot more difficult. The Bears' three conference wins (Arizona State, UCLA, Washington State) came against teams settling into the bottom of the standings. Their next three games are against what appear to be the best three teams - Oregon, USC and Oregon State - and two of those are on the road, where Cal has yet to prove itself. The Bears are 1-2 away from home, and that win against Washington State should be discarded.

Cal's only "quality win" was the season-opening 38-31 victory at home over Michigan State, and that was in August. It also was Riley's only impressive performance. Tedford said that game, without question, was the Bears' best, and coaches don't want their team to peak in the opener.  Being one win shy of bowl eligibility in October would have been cause for major celebration before Tedford arrived. But expectations are different now. The Bears are good enough to consider themselves Rose Bowl contenders in a conference in which every team has at least one conference loss and only one team (USC) looks the least bit dominant. Cal can be a factor, but it has not yet proven it has the offense to do it.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Cal's Ezeff had a reason to talk, and smile

By Lowell Cohn

I asked Cal coach Jeff Tedford what safety Marcus Ezeff is like. I asked because Ezeff was one of Cal’s stars in the 41-20 blowout of UCLA, and I never met Ezeff even though he went to Montgomery High School.

“He’s very quiet,” Tedford said, “very reserved, a tough player.” And then Tedford added, “Good luck with your interview because he doesn’t talk very much.” Thanks for the encouragement, Coach.  Let me back up. Ezeff made two enormous plays when Saturday’s game was still a game. He intercepted Bruin quarterback Kevin Craft on the very first play from scrimmage, a good sign for Cal, not so good for UCLA.  According to the postgame notes, that was Ezeff’s first collegiate pick. Craft eventually threw four picks, which did a lot to bury the Bruins. That was UCLA’s problem and this is a Cal article. Ezeff’s big play came in the second quarter — call it his deluxe whopper play. The score was 10-7 Cal in a close, not-so-well-played game up to that point and Craft dropped back to pass and, naturally, he threw it to a Cal receiver. You got it — Ezeff.

He caught the ball at the Cal 31 and returned it 69 yards for the touchdown, his first-ever TD in college. The TD stretched out the Bears’ lead and gave a good indication of what was in store for the Bruins. It was the longest Bears’ interception return for a TD since Nnamdi Asomugha did it for 85 yards against Arizona State in 2002. So, Ezeff is in pretty good company.   When the game was over, the tough part came. For me. I needed to interview Ezeff, and Tedford had given me that ominous warning. Ezeff walked into the interview room from the locker room and looked around.  The public relations staff directed him to a seat and he smiled and waited. I asked him about the interception that led to the TD, asked what he saw as the ball came to him. “I just saw a lot of field,” he said. “I just wanted to make a play. I think we were only up by three at that time, and I just wanted to give the team a boost. I went from there.”

Actually, he went pretty far, but he wasn’t bragging. He’s one of those guys who plays down his achievements, sort of a young Tedford, if you know what I mean. Did the ball come right to him? “Yeah, it came to me on a deflection. I have to credit coach Tedford and the coaching staff because that’s something we work on every pre-practice. The turnover drills we’re working on in practice are starting to pay off.”

When he was running downfield for the touchdown, what was he thinking? Ezeff stared at me like I’d spoken a foreign language. What I asked was definitely NOT a football question, but he tried to answer anyway.

“Ugh. It’s not like I’ve never been there before. Probably the last time I’ve been there was high school. It’s all good, but beyond that there’s a lot of things I did wrong (in the game). That’s really what I want to correct as of now. But it’s great to have the two interceptions, but at the same time that’s something I expect of myself. I really just want to go back into the film room and work on those basics.” He was being hard on himself. I asked if he wants to feel bad after this game. I mean, he had a great game — he could give himself a break. He smiled a small smile but didn’t change his tune. “Sundays you come in and you see a lot of things you could have done better. That’s what really gets to me more than the big plays I made.”

I guess a terrific athlete has to have that attitude, but you’ll agree Ezeff was allowed to celebrate for maybe half an hour.  I mentioned Tedford said he doesn’t talk much. “I’m just a quiet guy, I’ve always been. I was raised it’s OK to be a superstar but be humble. I’ve just never been that much of a talker. I lead by example, just doing the right thing.” Is he quiet around his teammates? “My best friend on the team is Zack Follett. We’re not always quiet.” How often does he go back to Santa Rosa?

“I have a busy schedule here. I try and get back as much as I can to see friends and family. I just played one of my friends today, (Bruin running back) Khalil Bell. Khalil went to Montgomery High School his freshman and sophomore year.” I was done and thanked Ezeff. I thought that was a good interview. I appreciated Ezeff for taking time with me, for trying hard and being sincere. Afterward, I went back to Tedford and told him, “Ezeff was a good interview.” “Maybe he just won’t talk to me,” he said.

Daily Cal: Giorgio Tavecchio's Path to Memorial Stadium, Beginning in Italy, Redefines the Unconventional

By Jack Ross

Picture reading the following in today's media guide about one of the Bears' starting players. Would you believe it?  Walked on to the Cal football team only three days before the first game.  First player to touch a ball in the Bears' 2008 season. Less than three years of total football experience ... Born in Milan, Italy.

At first glance, the story of freshman kicker Giorgio Tavecchio seems too outlandish to be true. And certainly, there isn't much about his profile that says "football player," whether it be his inescapably Italian heritage, his happy-go-lucky, wild-hand-gesturing persona, or his diminutive 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame.

Today, as he handles Cal's kickoff and field goal duties, there's no doubt that Tavecchio is a football player, no matter how unbelievable that is.  Truth be told, only a few years ago, there was a strong chance that Tavecchio would be playing a different kind of football.  In fact, it took a conversation with a friend at Campolindo High School in Moraga, Calif., to redirect Tavecchio's path away from penalty kicks and towards place-kicking-a chance he initially scoffed at.   "I was walking through the halls one day," Tavecchio says with his usual excitable Italian inflection. "And a buddy of mine on the football team comes up to me and says, 'Hey Giorgio, we need a kicker. You wanna try it?'  "I said, 'Yeah, right. I mean foot-ball. C'mon, man.'"

Enter Mama Tavecchio to kick start his football career.  "Then, I went home and told my mom and she said, 'Hey, try something new! We're in America. Play an American sport!'" he says. "So, I thought, 'OK,' and kicked the next day. And I liked it. It was kinda awkward, but I started to get into it."  A few days later, Tavecchio replaced the lineman who was starting and claimed the kicking throne by the next game. He started for the next two years, but because of his second career as a midfielder for the school's soccer team, Tavecchio lacked the time needed to attend camps that put kickers on the recruiting map. Despite early correspondence with Cal special teams coach Pete Alamar, the two fell out of touch. And so, when his high school career approached its end, his college plans consisted not of Cal football, but instead of soccer at UC Davis. With no contact from the Bears in over two months, that was the plan until May 28, 2008, at 4:10 p.m. "I was sitting there, watching TV," Tavecchio says. "And then Alamar calls me. He explained to me that a spot opened up. And I said, 'Of course, I'd love to go (to Cal).'"  In a flash, it was settled-Tavecchio would be a Bear.  Actually being accepted by his teammates, however, was not as instaneous. Once Tavecchio joined the team in late August, many Cal players, specifically non-kickers, made him work to earn his stripes. None of it phased the lefty kicker.

"Being a freshman, walk-on, kicker ... That's the lowest on the totem pole," Tavecchio says. "I still get (flack) every day, which is fine. If they give me crap or make fun of me, it means I'm part of the team. I love it." Though his Cal career is still in its infancy, Tavecchio's is quickly making his mark. He is often praised by Alamar and coach Jeff Tedford for being impervious to the pressures of kicking-composure that's already been displayed this season. There was his season-opening kickoff, a task the youthful Italian accepted with dignity. When told of his first assignment by Alamar, the stoic Tavecchio responded as if he was being asked to carry out a supremely important military assignment: "It would be an honor."

Last week in enemy territory at Arizona, he was asked to attempt the first field goal of his collegiate career from 51 yards, longer than any field goal he had ever attempted. No matter, the unflappable Tavecchio fired a strong kick, barely missing wide right.  Unshaken, Tavecchio came on again later in the half for a 42-yarder, showing he had no trouble putting his miss behind him by drilling the ball square between the uprights.  "The best feeling for me was after (I made the kick)," Tavecchio says. "I walked off the field and (Tedford) had a big smile on his face and gave me a high five. That was just Molto bene!"

Tedford is certainly not the only one who is tickled by Tavecchio, as his mannerisms entertain teammates and reporters alike.  His speech is always accompanied with animated hand gestures with Italian influence: "I guess it's in my blood."  He even attempted, unsuccessfully, to interject his heritage into his team, trying to get the special teams unit to break with a loud "Go Bears!"-only in Italian instead of English. And at his first media luncheon, he finished his first interview-only to return 30 minutes later, panting and sweating after riding a one-pedal bike up the hill to Memorial Stadium-laboring to make sure he thanked his high school kicking coach, Mike Ahr, whom he forgot to mention.  With kicking acumen and an engaging personality, Tavecchio has quickly become something of a Cal celebrity.  A month ago, after David Seawright and Jordan Kay combined to boot three kickoffs out of bounds, Tedford jokingly announced his intentions to start a campus-wide search to "find out if we have any soccer players who can kick the ball in bounds."  The exact answer to Tedford's kicking quandry was waiting on the Cal sideline. His name is Giorgio Tavecchio. And believe it or not, you can read more about him in today's media guide.


Daily Cal: Alex Mack Has Gone From Two-Star Recruit to One of the Nation's Elite-Level Centers

By Andrew Kim

An offensive lineman, residing on the smaller side of the size spectrum, walks up to an imaginary line of scrimmage.  He brushes his grip and lines up across from the Bears' top defensive line recruit in Phillip Mbakogu who, at the time, is a four-star prospect with offers from LSU, Notre Dame and Oregon. It's day two of one of the Cal football team's many summer camps. A slew of idle 17-year-olds watch as a less-heralded recruit vying for an offer sets up to face one of the least desirable matchups of the afternoon.

One slip, and the kid might have to spend the next four years laboring in a mid-major program. But Alex Mack, holding offers from just Utah and Utah State, doesn't mind the challenge. He gets down in his stance.

A day later, he gets his scholarship.   And five years after that, the former two-star prospect returned to Memorial Stadium for his senior year as a Preseason All-American, forgoing a sure selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. A 2007 finalist for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's top center, and winner of the Morris Trophy for being the Pac-10's top offensive lineman as voted by the conference's defensive linemen, Mack is now arguably the best in the country at what he does-a denomination that few 22-year-olds enjoy.

Following a midweek practice prepping for today's tilt against UCLA, Mack reflects on the Mbakogu matchup-one of the defining moments of his career. He recalls that he had been nearly unknown as a recruit, buried by the obscurity of playing high school football in Santa Barbara, Calif., a city not exactly known for its gridiron exploits.  "Santa Barbara is not a big football area," he says. "They don't get a whole lot of recruits out there, so coaches have a hard time coming out there and watching us. My school didn't have a good relationship with any of the (college) teams.  So it was hard to get me noticed."

It also didn't help that Mack was injured as a high school sophomore at the one Nike Camp that he attended, where people his size, he says, were "a dime a dozen." The center was measured and weighed, but a 250-pound lineman prospect that partook in zero individual drills would hardly excite a recruiter.  Never the type to take "No" for an answer, Mack took matters into his own hands. He dished out the $300 fee from his own pocket and enrolled into one of the several summer camps that the Bears hold for their young recruits, who typically participate before returning to high school for their senior seasons.  "I had to come out to the Cal camp and show myself off," says Mack.

In retrospect, it's safe to say the senior made the right decision, as offensive line coach Jim Michalczik-though admittedly a slow decider when it comes to recruits-may have passed on the center altogether had Mack not presented his case in person.  "We watched film on him and looked and said, "Eh, he's got a chance,'" Michalczik says. "I watched film and didn't fall in love with him. In fact, I keep the film in my office to refer back to every once a while.  "But we had him in camp and really got a chance to work with him and see what he can do. Then we offered him a scholarship."  Mack says he still savors the moment when he received Cal's offer, or to be exact, the subsequent walk back home. For a small-town kid, the prospect of playing Pac-10 football in a place like Berkeley was a lot to take in.  So he paused.  "It was just after practice, so I was dehydrated and tired," Mack recalls. "I remember carrying all my pads and walking across Piedmont (Avenue), across the Greek Theater, where you can see all of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

"It was a sunny day, and it gave me a good feeling about Cal. The coaches liked me, it was a really pretty place, really cool stadium. It was a nice fit."  In fact, the center remembers a lot from his four years in Berkeley.  He remembers the day he went up against Brandon Mebane-now a defensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks-for the first time as a freshman and was aptly humbled. And although he says it doesn't motivate him when facing UCLA, he also remembers how one Bruins recruiter "basically hung up the phone" when he revealed that he'd nearly committed to Cal.

Tedford, on the other hand, doesn't remember much from Mack's past.  Asked whether he remembers Mack's showdown against Mbakogu, whether he sees that as the one moment when it clicked that he wanted the young center in his program, Tedford says no.  "I'd be lying to you if I say I did," he says. Asked whether he can name any other instance in which Mack had him floored as a recruit, Tedford, again, says no.  Asked whether he remembers the conversation they had in his office when Mack received his offer, Tedford says no for a third time before getting into the reason.  "That's kind of typical of Alex because he's a blue-collar, hardworking guy," Tedford explains. "You know, it wasn't a big hooplah. It was a thing that he was getting an opportunity to play, and we felt like he was a good player-didn't know he was going to be a great player.  "It was a long time ago," he laughs. "So I don't really remember."  Perhaps Tedford's inability to recall much about Mack's past is just a testament to the type of person that the All-American center really is.   Mack isn't the type to make an unexpected splash-except with his Mexican wrestling mask and "absurd" sci-fi fiction collections, according to teammate and former roommate Mike Tepper-but simply goes about his business.  Michalczik, who says he longs for the days when offensive linemen went completely unnoticed, takes a moment to joke before describing the center's ability to keep a low-key image despite his raging on-field performance.  "I'm just surprised that people know his name," Michalczik laughs.  For an undersized and unproven high school recruit, that might make sense. But five years later, he shouldn't be.

Friday, October 24, 2008

SF Chronicle: Injuries have forced UCLA into different lineups

Rusty Simmons

UCLA lost its top two quarterbacks to injury before the season kicked off, and the hits keep coming. Defensive ends Reginald Stokes (knee) and Tom Blake (abdominal strain) and defensive tackle Chase Moline (back spasms) will miss Saturday's game against Cal, and the offensive line will start its fourth different lineup after losing left tackle Jeff Baca to a strained hamstring.  "We're running out of players, but we can mix and match," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "They let you play 11 players, so we'll make sure we run 11 out there."  David Carter is expected to move from defensive end to defensive tackle, and freshman Datone Jones should get more time at defensive end. On offense, Michael Harris will probably make his first college start at right tackle, with Micah Kia moving to left tackle.

Those aren't the kinds of moves UCLA wants to be making since it has lost five consecutive road games and 12 of its last 15. Cal has won 25 of its last 29 games in Strawberry Canyon and has outscored opponents 1,128-552 in that span. "We've got to do better on the road. If you still have that tape, we can just run that quote again and again," Neuheisel said. "As Bill Walsh said, 'If you want to win on the road, you just take the better team.' "  

Bear-Bruin ties: Players with past ties could end up colliding Saturday, if UCLA running back Khalil Bell breaks into the secondary or Bruins receiver Antwon Moutra lines up wide left.  Bell, a 6-foot, 219-pounder from Marin Catholic High in Kentfield, played annually against Cal safety Marcus Ezeff, who went to Montgomery High in Santa Rosa. "It's business on the field, but I'll say something to him afterward," Ezeff said.  Moutra, a 6-2, 183-pound freshman, is the cousin of Cal cornerback Darian Hagan. "I'm definitely going to see if the coaches will let me match up with him when he gets into the game," Hagan said.

Briefly: Cal coach Jeff Tedford still wasn't ready Thursday to announce a starting quarterback. Senior Nate Longshore and sophomore Kevin Riley have been splitting first- and second-team repetitions in practice, and the decision might not be finalized until Saturday. ... Sophomore Jahvid Best (elbow) was a full participant in Thursday's practice and is expected to play tailback but not return kicks. ... Senior defensive end Rulon Davis (leg) participated in sideline drills this week and is "fired up about returning soon," according to Tedford. ... Redshirt freshman receiver Michael Calvin is waiting for the swelling in his right knee to subside so he can have ACL surgery, Tedford said.


Daily Cal: Quarterback Question No Joking Matter

By Andrew Kim

Apologies to the linemen, or any other position that labors behind the scenes, but this quarterback story is too good to pass up.   Before we begin, it's worth mentioning that Saturday's game offers several enticing non-QB matchups that will largely determine the final score. For one, there's UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price versus Cal center Alex Mack.  Then there's Bears wideout Verran Tucker (or insert here any other receiver that steps up) versus Bruins cornerback Alterraun Verner.  And last but not least, there's the drama-filled matchup between UCLA wideout Terrence Austin (who as a recruit listed Cal as his "dream school," according to the Torrance Daily Breeze) and Bears corner Syd'Quan Thompson.

Still, at the end of the day, the game may turn into a duel between Kevin Craft and whoever Cal decides to throw under center.  That said, if it's Nate Longshore, the anti-Craft, you should know what to expect. Early on, Longshore will probably outshine Craft, make him look silly in his youth, and enter halftime with the Bears holding a sizeable lead.   But Cal fans may not feel safe with anything less than a two-possession advantage entering the fourth quarter.  It is a bit unfair to categorize Longshore as the guy who loses his cool facing late deficits and, to be fair, his lack of clutch has been exaggerated to a certain extent.

But the facts more or less support the notion. Longshore's resume over the past three seasons includes 12 fourth-quarter interceptions. And in those games, the Bears have a 2-7 record.  Last week's pick-to-loss against Arizona is the freshest example, but perhaps the most relevant piece of history documenting the trend occurred a year ago.  On Oct. 20, 2007, Cal rolled into the Rose Bowl ranked No. 12 in the nation and led 21-20 entering the fourth quarter. The Bruins flipped the scoreboard on Kai Forbath's 27-yard field goal, and the stage was set for a game-winning drive by Longshore with 3:08 remaining.  But two short Justin Forsett runs later, the quarterback was picked by Verner, who took matters into his own hands with a 76-yard touchdown return.  UCLA 30, Cal 21-the score would stand as Longshore threw another pick on the subsequent and final drive. The Bruins' third-down back Chane Moline then finished off the Bears with four straight runs and a first down.

As noted above, similar things have happened six other times in Longshore's career.  Now, wouldn't it be nearly impossible for the Cal faithful to feel comfortable with, say, a 13-point lead in the third quarter? Against Arizona State, it was the Bears' defense that secured the victory when the offense stalled. But one questionable performance in Tucson later, the 'D' is again an unproven commodity, or more accurately, it faces the need to prove itself again.  With Craft manning the opponents' offense, there's legitimate reason for concern. The junior transfer might be shaky early, but two game-winning drives against Tennessee and Stanford speak to a penchant for coming up big in the clutch.

Craft certainly isn't a better overall player than either Longshore or Kevin Riley, but with the Bruins trailing by two scores in the fourth, can't you imagine him picking up a drive at his own 10-yard line, lining up opposite the Cal defensive linemen and muttering, "Why so serious?"  It's still safer to pick the Joker to lose, as there's nothing more foolish than siding with a Pac-10 underdog on the road, save Oregon State. Regardless of who is under center for the Bears, they should win at home.

It should be noted, though, that if the score doesn't heavily favor Cal entering the final stanza, and if Longshore doesn't defy his fourth-quarter history, the Bears could be in trouble.  Having Riley enter a game trailing in the fourth quarter-like he did last Saturday-makes it tough to expect him to pull a Manny. Cal should let Riley start the game to avoid that situation altogether. A deficit in the fourth plus a cold quarterback spells nothing but defeat for the Bears.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

SF Chronicle: No answers to Arizona's run

Link, with some interesting comments.

By Rusty Simmons

Senior center Alex Mack is widely considered the smartest guy on the Cal roster, yet after Saturday's 42-27 loss at Arizona, he had very few answers.  "I don't know what happened," Mack said Tuesday. "We're up by six and we're down by one and we're down by eight."  Three days later, things weren't much clearer. The Cal players know Arizona turned a 10-point deficit into a 42-27 lead in less than 12 minutes of the third quarter, but exactly how it happened is a mystery.  "If I could tell you, I would tell you," safety Marcus Ezeff said. "Guys just took turns messing up," linebacker Anthony Felder said.  "I don't know, man," linebacker Worrell Williams said.

After compiling 179 yards of total offense on 32 first-half plays, Arizona had three plays for 150 yards and mixed in a 21-yard interception return for a fourth touchdown in the third quarter. During the third quarter, Cal's offense had three punts, an interception and a field goal.  "They made plays and we didn't," coach Jeff Tedford said. "They had three plays, and we didn't answer with anything of our own."  

This too shall pass: Tedford said senior Nate Longshore and sophomore Kevin Riley will continue splitting first- and second-team repetitions this week and called for both quarterbacks to improve their accuracy.

"I thought Nate did some real good things in the first half, not perfect by any means, and I thought Kevin did a couple of good things when he was in there, by all means not perfect," Tedford said. "We need to be more consistent at quarterback. Not one or the other, both of them."  Longshore was 18-for-37 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Arizona, and Riley was 7-for-19 for 97 yards and a pick in relief. Both quarterbacks dealt with consistent defensive pressure and a number of dropped balls. Tedford said playing Riley as preparation for the future was not a consideration.  "We're not playing for the coming years," Tedford said. "No, no way. This is about this year. This is about being productive right now and doing what we have to do to win games right now." 

Bravo, bravo: Tedford said he "fully anticipates" Giorgio Tavecchio continuing as the team's kicker, regardless of the status of David Seawright's groin injury. Tavecchio, replacing Seawright for the first time, narrowly missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt and made 42- and 40-yarders against Arizona.  After captivating his audience for 10 minutes at Tuesday's media luncheon, Tavecchio rode his one-pedaled bike to his dormitory, only to return about 30 minutes later.   "I forgot to mention my Campolindo High kicking coach, Mike Ahr, and my head coach, Kevin Macy," Tavecchio explained. "Please write that they made this opportunity possible."

Briefly: Jahvid Best (elbow) didn't practice, but Tedford was "encouraged" that the tailback's soreness is in the muscles above and below the elbow, instead of in the joint itself. ... Senior right guard Noris Malele, who left Saturday's game with a tweaked knee, participated in all drills Tuesday.

Third-quarter collapse

Arizona needed less than 12 minutes against Cal on Saturday for a 25-point turnaround. Here are the Wildcats' four TDs and the Bears' one field goal:

-- Mike Thomas 56-yard pass from Willie Tuitama, 13:14

-- Giorgio Tavecchio 40-yard field goal, 9:20

-- Keola Antolin 1-yard run, 6:33

-- Devin Ross 21-yard interception return, 6:16

-- Rob Gronkowski 35-yard pass from Tuitama, 1:29

Press Enterprise: UCLA Scouting Report



SATURDAY'S OPPONENT: California (4-2, 2-1 Pac-10)

WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, 12:30 p.m.

CAL STORY LINE: The Bears have been a difficult team to figure out this season. They have beaten a good team (Michigan State) and lost to mediocre ones (Arizona, Maryland). Quarterback play is the biggest question mark for the Bears, and neither Kevin Riley nor Nate Longshore has proven to be the answer with their decision-making. Cal is coming off a 42-27 loss to Arizona where it was flat-out embarrassed after blowing a 24-14 halftime lead and was outscored 28-3 in the third quarter.


RB JAHVID BEST (5-10, 193, So.): Best just might be the best offensive player in the Pac-10 this season and leads the nation in all-purpose yards (200.4 per game). He is averaging 7 yards per rush and more than 31 yards a kick return and is tied for the team lead with 18 receptions. He did miss a game with a dislocated elbow that is still bothering him.

C ALEX MACK (6-5, 315, Sr.): Arguably one of the best college centers this decade, Mack is an All-American and potential first-round pickHe is smart, experienced and holds the Cal record for the clean lift (374 pounds). There might not be a better interior lineman in the nation this season.

CB SYD'QUAN THOMPSON (5-9, 184, Jr.): Thompson has started all 32 games in his Cal career and is dangerous. He has three picks and nine passes defended this season and has already returned one punt for a touchdown.

WHAT RICK NEUHEISEL SAYS: "They are a very talented team. Coach Tedford has a lot of skill athletes that are explosive and it will be tough to contain it all. We have to limit it and play a great field-position game so they have to go long fields."

WHAT CAL COACH JEFF TEDFORD SAYS: "Everybody understands that USC has been at the top of the conference. But as we all see, anything can happen if you don't play well and turn the football over. They are still the favorites to be at the top of the conference and there is a lot of football left."


LA Times: UCLA's Lines Are Shaken Up

Click here, where you can see a video interview of UCLA’s coach.

By Chris Foster

Tackle Jeff Baca hobbled off the UCLA practice field Tuesday, creating more turmoil for the Bruins' offensive line.  Baca, a freshman who had settled in at left tackle, suffered what was called a strained hamstring during practice. He will be re-evaluated today, but there were concerns among coaches that he tore the left hamstring.  The injury resulted in another shuffling of the offensive line. Micah Kia moved from right tackle to left tackle. Mike Harris worked out with the first team at right tackle.

"Even before Baca hurt his hamstring, I was going to give Harris a good look," offensive line coach Bob Palcic said. "He's worked hard. He's been doing a nice job in one-on-one pass protection. I know he's hungry. He's come up to my office and asked to get extra work."  Palcic said he has other options. Right guard Nick Ekbatani can move to right tackle and Scott Glicksberg or Darius Savage can play guard.

Stokes surgery

Defensive end Reginald Stokes will have surgery on his left knee for a torn meniscus. He is expected to be out at least three weeks.  That left the Bruins' defensive line considerably thin.  Defensive end Tom Blake has an abdominal injury that may end his season. Defensive tackle Chase Moline is not expected to play Saturday because of back spasms.   "As long as we got bodies and guys in the system, we have to keep on coaching," defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said.  David Carter was moved from defensive tackle to defensive end Tuesday, and freshman Datone Jones, who was flopped from weak side to strong side defensive end against Stanford, played about 15 plays against the Cardinal.  "Tom Blake helped me out after I was converted to the tight end side," Jones said. "I have to attack the tight end and get outside pass rush. The mind-set I have right now is to not make mistakes."

Cal update

California Coach Jeff Tedford said that Jahvid Best, the Bears' top running back, should be ready to play this week. Best, who dislocated an elbow Sept. 27, played last week, but was pulled after three quarters against Arizona on Saturday because his elbow was sore. "We didn't want to risk any further damage," Tedford said.

Best did not practice Tuesday.

Odds and split ends

UCLA wide receiver Ryan Graves sat out practice because of a sore hamstring. . . . Tailback Raymond Carter tested his groin injury during practice but is questionable for the game. . . . Defensive lineman Andy Keane missed practice because he was sick.

ESPN: Best OK, QB situation the same

By Ted Miller


California coach Jeff Tedford said during the Pac-10 teleconference that running back Jahvid Best didn't suffer any new damage to his elbow during the Arizona game and should be able to practice this week and play against UCLA on Saturday.  Best was pulled in the third quarter in Cal's 42-27 defeat when his elbow, which he dislocated on Sept. 27 against Colorado State, started bothering him again.

"It's been positive the last couple of days," Tedford said. "I think it was more muscle issues. His elbow felt pretty good on Sunday and [Monday] he came in and said it felt really good."  Meanwhile, Tedford said that Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley will continue to compete during the week for the starting job at quarterback. Riley started the first four games, while Longshore started the last two. Riley replaced Longshore in the fourth quarter against Arizona.  "Our quarterback situation will be the same as last week as far as they will get equal reps during the week and we'll see how the week goes to see who's going to start," Tedford said.